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Dialectical materialism From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Part of a series on Marxism Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Theoretical works[show] Concepts[show] Economics[show] Sociology[show] History[show] Philosophy[show] Variants[show] Movements[show] People[show] Portal icon Socialism portal Portal icon Communism portal Portal icon Philosophy portal v t e Dialectical materialism is a philosophy of science and nature, based on the writ ings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and developed largely in Russia and the Soviet Union.[1][2] The main idea of dialectical materialism lies in the concept of the evolution of the natural world and the emergence of new qualities of bei ng at new stages of evolution. As Z. A. Jordan notes, "Engels made constant use of the metaphysical insight that the higher level of existence emerges from and has its roots in the lower; that the higher level constitutes a new order of bei ng with its irreducible laws; and that this process of evolutionary advance is g overned by laws of development which reflect basic properties of 'matter in moti on as a whole'."[3] A Soviet philosophical encyclopedia of the 1960s speaks of the evolution of comp lexity in nature as follows: "This whole series of forms (mechanical, physical, chemical, biological and social) is distributed according to complexity from low er to higher. This seriation expresses their mutual bonds in terms of structure and in terms of history. The general laws of the lower forms of the motion of ma tter keep their validity for all the higher forms but they are subject to the hi gher laws and do not have a prominent role. They change their activity because o f changed circumstances. Laws can be general or specific, depending on their ran ge of applicability. The specific laws fall under the special sciences and the g eneral laws are the province of diamat."[4] Each level of matter exists as a typ e of organization, in which the elements that make up a whole, or system, are ma rked by a specific type of interconnection. Contents [hide] 1 The term 2 Historical background of materialism 3 Marx's dialectics 4 Engels' laws of dialectics 5 Lenin's contributions 6 Luk?cs' additions 7 Dialectical materialism as a heuristic in biology and elsewhere 8 See also 9 References 10 Further reading The term[edit] The term dialectical materialism was coined in 1887, by Joseph Dietzgen, a socia list tanner who corresponded with Marx, during and after the failed 1848 German Revolution. As a philosopher, Dietzgen had constructed the theory of dialectical materialism independently of Marx and Engels.[5] Casual mention of the term is also found in the biography Frederick Engels, by Karl Kautsky, [6]written in the

same year. Marx himself had talked about the "materialist conception of history ", which was later referred to as "historical materialism" by Engels. Engels fur ther exposed the "materialist dialectic" not "dialectical materialism" in his Di alectics of Nature in 1883. Georgi Plekhanov, the father of Russian Marxism, lat er introduced the term dialectical materialism to Marxist literature.[7] Joseph Stalin further delineated and defined dialectical and historical materialism as the world outlook of Marxism-Leninism, and as a method to study society and its history.[8] The exact term was not used by Marx in any of his works, and controversy exists regarding the relationship between dialectics, ontology, and nature. Joseph Need ham, the influential historian of science and a Christian who nonetheless was an adherent of dialectical materialism, suggested that a more appropriate term mig ht be "dialectical organicism".[9] For scholars working on these issues from a v ariety of perspectives see the works of Bertell Ollman, Roger Albritton, and Roy Bhaskar. Historical background of materialism[edit] Dialectical materialism is but an aspect of the broader subject of materialism. Marx's doctoral thesis concerned the atomism of Epicurus and Democritus, which i s considered the foundation of materialist philosophy. Marx was also familiar wi th Lucretius's theory of clinamen. Materialism asserts the primacy of the material world: in short, matter precedes thought. Materialism is a realist philosophy of science,[10] which holds that t he world is material; that all phenomena in the universe consist of "matter in m otion," wherein all things are interdependent and interconnected and develop acc ording to natural law; that the world exists outside us and independently of our perception of it; that thought is a reflection of the material world in the bra in, and that the world is in principle knowable. Marx presented his own materialist philosophy as an alternative to Hegel's ideal ism. However, Marx also criticized classical materialism as another idealist phi losophy idealist because of its transhistorical understanding of material contexts . According to the famous Theses on Feuerbach (1845), philosophy had to stop "in terpreting" the world in endless metaphysical debates, in order to start "changi ng" the world, as was being done by the rising workers' movement observed by Eng els in England (Chartist movement) and by Marx in France and Germany. Marxist ma terialists tended to accord primacy to the class struggle. The ultimate sense of Marx's materialist philosophy is that philosophy itself must take a position in the class struggle based on objective analysis of physical and social relations . Otherwise, it will be reduced to spiritualist idealism, such as the philosophi es of Immanuel Kant or Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Marx's dialectics[edit] The concept of dialectical materialism emerges from statements by Marx in the pr eface to his magnum opus, Capital. There Marx says he intends to use Hegelian di alectics but in revised form. He defends Hegel against those who view him as a " dead dog" and then says, "I openly avowed myself as the pupil of that mighty thi nker [Hegel]."[11] Marx credits Hegel with "being the first to present its [dial ectic's] form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner". But he then c riticizes Hegel for turning dialectics upside down: "With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the ratio nal kernel within the mystical shell."[12] Marx's criticism of Hegel asserts that Hegel's dialectics go astray by dealing w ith ideas, with the human mind. Hegel's dialectic, Marx says, inappropriately co ncerns "the process of the human brain"; it focuses on ideas. Hegel's thought is

in fact sometimes called "dialectical idealism," a misleading term that would b e more descriptive if changed to "dialectical ideaism" (spelled without the l). Marx believed that dialectics should deal not with the mental world of ideas but with "the material world," the world of production and other economic activity. [13] For Marx, human history cannot be fitted into any neat a priori schema. He expli citly rejects the idea of Hegel s followers that history can be understood as "a p erson apart, a metaphysical subject of which real human individuals are but the bearers".[14] To interpret history as though previous social formations have som ehow been aiming themselves toward the present state of affairs is "to misunders tand the historical movement by which the successive generations transformed the results acquired by the generations that preceded them".[15] Marx's rejection o f this sort of teleology was one reason for his enthusiastic (though not entirel y uncritical) reception of Darwin s theory of natural selection.[16] For Marx, dialectics is not a formula for generating predetermined outcomes, but is a method for the empirical study of social processes in terms of interrelati ons, development, and transformation. In his introduction to the Penguin edition of Marx s Capital, Ernest Mandel writes, "When the dialectical method is applied to the study of economic problems, economic phenomena are not viewed separately from each other, by bits and pieces, but in their inner connection as an integra ted totality, structured around, and by, a basic predominant mode of production. "[17] Marx s own writings are almost exclusively concerned with understanding human hist ory in terms of systemic processes, based on modes of production (broadly speaki ng, the ways in which societies are organized to employ their technological powe rs to interact with their material surroundings). This is called historical mate rialism. More narrowly, within the framework of this general theory of history, most of Marx s writing is devoted to an analysis of the specific structure and dev elopment of the capitalist economy. For his part, Engels applies a "dialectical" approach to the natural world in ge neral, arguing that contemporary science is increasingly recognizing the necessi ty of viewing natural processes in terms of interconnectedness, development, and transformation. Some scholars have doubted that Engels "dialectics of nature" is a legitimate extension of Marx s approach to social processes.[18][19][20][21] Ot her scholars have argued that despite Marx s insistence that humans are natural be ings in an evolving, mutual relationship with the rest of nature, Marx s own writi ngs pay inadequate attention to the ways in which human agency is constrained by such factors as biology, geography, and ecology.[22][23] Engels' laws of dialectics[edit] Engels postulated three laws of dialectics from his reading of Hegel's Science o f Logic.[24] Engels elucidated these laws in his work Dialectics of Nature: The law of the unity and conflict of opposites The law of the passage of quantitative changes into qualitative changes The law of the negation of the negation The first law was seen by both Hegel and Vladimir Lenin as the central feature o f a dialectical understanding of things[25][26] and originates with the ancient Ionian philosopher Heraclitus.[27] The second law Hegel took from Aristotle,[citation needed] and it is equated wit h what scientists call phase transitions. It may be traced to the ancient Ionian philosophers (particularly Anaximenes),[citation needed] from whom Aristotle, H egel, and Engels inherited the concept. For all these authors, one of the main i llustrations is the phase transitions of water. There has also been an effort to

apply this mechanism to social phenomena, whereby population increases result i n changes in social structure. The law of the passage of quantitative changes in to qualitative changes can also be applied to the process of social change and c lass conflict.[28] The third law, "negation of the negation," originated with Hegel. Although Hegel coined the term "negation of the negation," it gained its fame from Marx's usin g it in Capital. There Marx wrote this: "The [death] knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators [capitalists] are expropriated. The capitali st mode of appropriation, the result of the capitalist mode of production, produ ces capitalist private property. This is the first negation [antithesis] of indi vidual private property. [The "first negation," or antithesis, negates the thesi s, which in this instance is feudalism, the economic system that preceded capita lism.] . . . But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law o f Nature, its own negation. It [final communism, the synthesis] is the negation of [the] negation."[29] In drawing up these laws, Engels presupposes a holistic approach outlined above and in Lenin's three elements of dialectic below, and emphasizes elsewhere that all things are in motion.[30] The discovery that heat was actually the movement of atoms or molecules was the very latest science of the period in which Engels was writing. (Today we would describe heat in terms of "energy," a concept that was just beginning to be grasped.)</ref> Lenin's contributions[edit] After reading Hegel's Science of Logic in 1914, Lenin made some brief notes outl ining three "elements" of logic.[31] They are: The determination of the concept out of itself [the thing itself must be conside red in its relations and in its development]; The contradictory nature of the thing itself (the other of itself), the contradi ctory forces and tendencies in each phenomenon; The union of analysis and synthesis that. Such apparently are the elements of dialectics. Lenin, Summary of dialectics[32] Lenin develops these in a further series of notes, and appears to argue that "th e transition of quantity into quality and vice versa" is an example of the unity and opposition of opposites expressed tentatively as "not only the unity of opp osites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, prop erty into every other [into its opposite?]." Also, in his essay "On the Question of Dialectics", Lenin stated that " Developm struggle of opposites." He stated that " The unity ( coincidence, ide ent is the ntity, equal action ) of opposites is conditional, temporary, transitory, relati ve. The struggle of mutually exclusive opposites is absolute, just as developmen t and motion are absolute. "[33] In Materialism and Empiriocriticism (1908), Lenin explained dialectical material ism as three axes: (i) the materialist inversion of Hegelian dialectics, (ii) th e historicity of ethical principles ordered to class struggle, and (iii) the con vergence of "laws of evolution" in physics (Helmholtz), biology (Darwin), and in political economy (Marx). Hence, Lenin was philosophically positioned between h istoricist Marxism (Labriola) and determinist Marxism a political position close t o "social Darwinism" (Kautsky). Moreover, late century discoveries in physics (x -rays, electrons), and the beginning of quantum mechanics, philosophically chall enged previous conceptions of matter and materialism, thus Matter seemed to be d isappearing. Lenin disagreed:

'Matter disappears' means that the limit within which we have hitherto known mat ter disappears, and that our knowledge is penetrating deeper; properties of matt er are disappearing that formerly seemed absolute, immutable, and primary, and w hich are now revealed to be relative and characteristic only of certain states o f matter. For the sole 'property' of matter, with whose recognition philosophica l materialism is bound up, is the property of being an objective reality, of exi sting outside of the mind. Lenin was developing the work of Engels, who said that "with each epoch-making d iscovery, even in the sphere of natural science, materialism has to change its f orm."[34] One of Lenin's challenges was distancing materialism, as a viable phil osophical outlook, from the "vulgar materialism" expressed in the statement "the brain secretes thought in the same way as the liver secretes bile" (attributed to 18th-century physician Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis, 1757 1808); "metaphysical m aterialism" (matter composed of immutable particles); and 19th-century "mechanic al materialism" (matter as random molecules interacting per the laws of mechanic s). The philosophic solution that Lenin (and Engels) proposed was "dialectical m aterialism", wherein matter is defined as "objective reality", theoretically con sistent with (new) developments occurred in the sciences. Luk?cs' additions[edit] Gy?rgy Luk?cs, minister of Culture in the brief Bla Kun government of the Hungari an Soviet Republic (1919), published History and Class Consciousness (1923), whi ch defined dialectical materialism as the knowledge of society as a whole, knowl edge which, in itself, was immediately the class consciousness of the proletaria t. In the first chapter "What is Orthodox Marxism?", Luk?cs defined orthodoxy as fidelity to the "Marxist method", not fidelity to "dogmas": Orthodox Marxism, therefore, does not imply the uncritical acceptance of the res ults of Marx's investigations. It is not the "belief" in this or that thesis, no r the exegesis of a "sacred" book. On the contrary, orthodoxy refers exclusively to method. It is the scientific conviction that dialectical materialism is the road to truth, and that its methods can be developed, expanded, and deepened, on ly along the lines laid down by its founders. (1) Luk?cs philosophical criticism of Marxist revisionism proposed an intellectual r eturn to Marxist method. As did Louis Althusser, who later defined Marxism and p sychoanalysis as "conflictual sciences";[35] that political factions and revisio nism are inherent to Marxist theory and political praxis, because dialectical ma terialism is the philosophic product of class struggle: For this reason, the task of orthodox Marxism, its victory over Revisionism and utopianism can never mean the defeat, once and for all, of false tendencies. It is an ever-renewed struggle against the insidious effects of bourgeois ideology on the thought of the proletariat. Marxist orthodoxy is no guardian of tradition s, it is the eternally vigilant prophet proclaiming the relation between the tas ks of the immediate present and the totality of the historical process. (5) Moreover, "the premise of dialectical materialism is, we recall: 'It is not men' s consciousness that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their soc ial existence that determines their consciousness'. . . . Only when the core of existence stands revealed as a social process can existence be seen as the produ ct, albeit the hitherto unconscious product, of human activity". (5) Philosophica lly aligned with Marx is the criticism of the individualist, bourgeois philosoph y of the subject, which is founded upon the voluntary and conscious subject. Aga inst said ideology is the primacy of social relations. Existence and thus the wo rld is the product of human activity; but this can be seen only by accepting the primacy of social process on individual consciousness. This type of consciousne ss is an effect of ideological mystification.

Yet, at the 5th Congress of the Communist International (July 1924), Grigory Zin oviev formally denounced Luk?cs's heterodox definition of orthodox Marxism as ex clusively derived from fidelity to the "Marxist method", and not to Communist pa rty dogmas; and denounced the Marxism developments of the German theorist Karl K orsch. Dialectical materialism as a heuristic in biology and elsewhere[edit] The noted historian of science Loren Graham has detailed at length the role play ed by dialectical materialism in the Soviet Union in disciplines as diverse as b iology, psychology, chemistry, cybernetics, quantum mechanics, and cosmology. He has concluded that, despite the Lysenko period in genetics and constraints on f ree inquiry imposed by political authorities, dialectical materialism had a posi tive influence on the work of many Soviet scientists.[36] Some evolutionary biologists, such as Richard Lewontin and the late Stephen Jay Gould, have tried to employ dialectical materialism in their approach. They view dialectics as playing a precautionary heuristic role in their work. From Lewont in's perspective, we get this idea: Dialectical materialism is not, and never has been, a programmatic method for so lving particular physical problems. Rather, a dialectical analysis provides an o verview and a set of warning signs against particular forms of dogmatism and nar rowness of thought. It tells us, "Remember that history may leave an important t race. Remember that being and becoming are dual aspects of nature. Remember that conditions change and that the conditions necessary to the initiation of some p rocess may be destroyed by the process itself. Remember to pay attention to real objects in time and space and not lose them in utterly idealized abstractions. Remember that qualitative effects of context and interaction may be lost when ph enomena are isolated". And above all else, "Remember that all the other caveats are only reminders and warning signs whose application to different circumstance s of the real world is contingent."[37] Gould shared similar views regarding a heuristic role for dialectical materialis m. He wrote "Dialectical thinking should be taken more seriously by Western scho lars, not discarded because some nations of the second world have constructed a cardboard version as an official political doctrine."[38] Furthermore, when presented as guidelines for a philosophy of change, not as dogmatic percept s true by fiat, the three classical laws of dialectics embody a holistic vision that views change as interaction among components of complete systems, and sees the components themselves not as a priori entities, but as both products and inp uts to the system. Thus, the law of "interpenetrating opposites" records the ine xtricable interdependence of components: the "transformation of quantity to qual ity" defends a systems-based view of change that translates incremental inputs i nto alterations of state; and the "negation of negation" describes the direction given to history because complex systems cannot revert exactly to previous stat es.[39] This heuristic was also applied to the theory of punctuated equilibrium proposed by Niles Eldredge and Gould. They wrote "History, as Hegel said, moves upward i n a spiral of negations," and that "punctuated equilibria is a model for discont inuous tempos of change (in) the process of speciation and the deployment of spe cies in geological time."[40] They noted that "the law of transformation of quan tity into quality", "holds that a new quality emerges in a leap as the slow accu mulation of quantitative changes, long resisted by a stable system, finally forc es it rapidly from one state into another," a phenomenon described in some disci plines as a paradigm shift. Apart from the commonly cited example of water turni ng to steam with increased temperature, Gould and Eldredge noted another analogy

in information theory, "with its jargon of equilibrium, steady state, and homeo stasis maintained by negative feedback," and "extremely rapid transitions that o ccur with positive feedback."[41] Lewontin, Gould and Eldredge were thus more interested in dialectical materialis m as a heuristic, than a dogmatic form of 'truth' or a statement of their politi cs. Nevertheless, they found a readiness for critics to "seize upon" key stateme nts[42] and portray punctuated equilibrium, and exercises associated with it, su ch as public exhibitions, as a "Marxist plot".[43] See also[edit] Books The Dialectic of Sex Concepts Classical Marxism Dialectical monism Fundamentals of Marxism Leninism Marxism Marxist philosophy of nature Methodological naturalism Orthodox Marxism Parametric determinism Philosophy in the Soviet Union Thesis-antithesis-synthesis